The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) has agreed to appoint a special envoy to engage in talks with Indonesia on the issue of West Papua.

This was confirmed by Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka at the end of the MSG Leaders sub-regional meeting in Rarotonga today.

Pacific leaders at the Forum Leaders Meeting in Tuvalu in 2019 “strongly encouraged” Indonesia to finalise the timing of a visit by the UN high commissioner to investigate the reported human rights abuses – including torture, extrajudicial killings, and systemic police and military violence.

The communique reaffirmed recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty over West Papua”, but acknowledged “the reported escalation in violence and continued allegations of human rights abuses in West Papua”.

“On the West Papua concerns on the call for the United Nations sponsored human rights investigation, we would tread cautiously on that issue and perhaps have a joint senior citizen envoy from MSG to speak directly to the President of Indonesia to have a dialogue on that area,” Rabuka told regional journalist in Rarotonga.

Pacific leaders have agreed to maintain open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia on the issue of alleged human rights abuses and violations in West Papua.

Agreement on a visit to West Papua by the UN’s high commissioner for human rights was negotiated more than a year ago, but never materialised, prompting a series of complaints from the UN. A request to visit remains outstanding.

Meanwhile, Rabuka said the non-attendance of other MSG leaders at this year’s Pacific Islands Forum is not a sign of disrespect to the Forum.

“It did not have an impact because heads of delegation were properly briefed. Vanuatu has an internal political situation in Parliament while the PNG Prime Minister has been to China where he rubbed shoulders with world leaders and decided to send his deputy. Solomon Islands just settled in, so we understood why they were not here.

Rabuka also told journalists that he apologised to the MSG members for his stance on Fukushima water discharge – which he revealed was well received by the Leaders.

“I apologised to them if my announcement on the Fukushima discharge straight after the MSG meeting in Vanuatu was contrary to their views, I was assured that the views reiterated what we had said to go with the science.

The MSG leaders also discussed their position on Fukushima, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Vanuatu’s bid to host the 2030 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting to coincide with their 50th anniversary which was supported today.